AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 16a

April 16, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Welcome to the Far Future, Spitfires back to top 
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Lost Squadron Of Pickled Spitfires Found

Aviation historians and warbird enthusiasts are drooling at the discovery of at least 12 and maybe as many 20 perfectly preserved brand-new Spitfire Mark 14s buried in Myanmar, which was formerly Burma. Thanks to the tenacity (and apparently considerable diplomatic skills) of British farmer David Cundall, the lost squadron of pristine fighters was found where they were buried by U.S. troops in 1945 when it became clear they wouldn't be needed in the final days of the Second World War. At least a dozen of the aircraft, one of the latest variants with their 2,035-horsepower Roll Royce Griffon engines replacing the 1,200-1,500-horsepower Merlins in earlier models, were buried without ever being removed from their original packing crates. It's possible another eight were also buried after the war ended. After spending 15 years and $200,000 of his own money, Cundall was rewarded with visual proof of the magnitude of his discovery. "We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates," he told the Telegraph. "They seemed to be in good condition."

The aircraft were declared surplus when they arrived in Burma because the Japanese were in retreat by then and carrier-based Seafires were getting all the action. They were ordered buried in their original crates, waxed, swaddled in grease paper and their joints tarred against the elements. Cundall found some of the soldiers who buried the planes by placing ads in magazines and was able to narrow down the search before using ground-penetrating radar to confirm the burial site. The next obstacles to recovery are political. Myanmar's former military junta was under a variety of sanctions, among them an international convention that prevented the transfer of military goods to and from the country. Recent political reforms have led to the lifting of that ban effective April 23. Cundall will also need the permission of the new Myanmar government to unearth the treasure. He helped his own cause by making numerous trips to the country and earning the trust of government officials. British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to seal the deal with Myanmar President Thein Sein during a visit.

AVweb Insider Blog: A Dozen Spitfires in Factory Crates? A Dream Find

The weekend's news brought a report that a British farmer named David Cundall has discovered a squadron of Mark XIV Supermarine Spitfires buried in their factory crates as surplus at the end of World War II. If the story has legs, it will be the historical aircraft find of the century. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli asks the question on everyone's mind: "Whattya figure those things will be worth?"

Read more and join the conversation.

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Employment and the Economy back to top 

Air Force Reopens Light Air Support Contract

The Air Force will formally reopen the bidding process for a light air support aircraft contract on Tuesday with the release of a draft request for proposals. The decision will presumably allow Hawker Beechcraft to re-enter its AT-6B in the competition for the $1 billion deal, which was briefly awarded to Sierra Nevada Corp and its version of the Embraer Super Tucano. The Air Force cancelled the deal with Sierra Nevada earlier this year after it said it discovered unspecified irregularities in the contract process while preparing a defense for a lawsuit launched by Hawker Beech. The final draft of the RFP will be issued on Apr. 30 and the contract will be awarded sometime in 2013.

The contract issue has become politically significant at several levels. Hawker Beechcraft launched a public appeal for support to get back in the bidding and that, in turn, drew support from local politicians and became a talking point in the Republican nomination race. Meanwhile Florida politicians started a bandwagon of their own for the Sierra Nevada/Embraer bid since the aircraft would be assembled in Jacksonville. It took an international turn when Brazil, Embraer's home country, suggested the abrupt cancellation of contract might color its assessment of potential fighter aircraft for its military. Boeing's F/A-18 is up against several European aircraft in that competition, which is worth about $36 billion.

Hawker Beech Warns Shareholders

Hawker Beechcraft has warned shareholders it may not be able to stay in business in its current form. "Management has concluded that there is substantial doubt about the Company's ability to continue as a going concern," the company said in a delayed year-end filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company had earlier warned the ominous warning was coming. The Form 10-K filing bluntly assesses the company's future prospects and it's not a pretty picture. Many analysts have determined a Chapter 11 reorganization is inevitable. The company is awash in red ink and has lost almost $1 billion in the last two years against a shrinking backlog of about $1.13 billion. It has more than $2.3 billion in debt, has already missed some interest payments and may miss more. "Due to the fact that we have recurring negative cash flows from operations and recurring losses from operations, we will need to seek additional financing," the filing states. 'There is substantial doubt that we will be able to obtain additional equity or debt financing on favorable terms, or at all, in order to have sufficient liquidity to meet our cash requirements for the next twelve months." New CEO Steve Miller spun the financials as positively as he could, saying the company will "decide on a path forward for Hawker Beechcraft that will include a plan that will put the company on firm financial footing and better position Hawker Beechcraft for the future."

There are diminishing options available to Miller to turn the company around. The filing mentions selling off assets and equity, renegotiating its debt and finally Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the options open to it. The debt load is cited as a key factor in the company's financial woes and much of its cash flow goes to servicing that debt.

Open House For Job-Seekers At Scaled

For the first time ever, Scaled Composites, in Mojave, Calif., will open the hangar doors on Saturday, April 21, and invite job-seekers to come in and talk to the staff about job openings at the company. "We have a lot going on and we need to do some hiring," company spokesman Elliot Seguin told AVweb this week. "It's very unusual that we invite people in like this, but we're very busy with a lot of projects, and we've accelerated our hiring efforts." The job fair coincides with an Open House event at the Mojave Airport, open to all, so it's a unique opportunity for those who are interested in exploring job options to also get a sense of the culture of the airport, Sequin said.

The Open House, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature static displays of the White Knight, WhiteKnightTwo, and BiPod aircraft, a briefing on flying SpaceShipTwo, a competitive student robotics competition, and a race-car club on Runway 30. The Voyager restaurant on the field opens at 8 a.m. More details for job-seekers are posted at the Scaled website.

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New Aircraft ... back to top 

Synergy Aircraft Progress

The unorthodox five-place Synergy aircraft concept gained critical attention with its public introduction about one year ago and, as AVweb learned Thursday, it may soon be taking another enterprising turn. Aircraft are generally designed to do one thing very well (high-speed cruise, for example), often at the expense of other things (like fuel burn, slow flight, or landing speed and distances). Aerodynamically, that is where John McGinnis' Synergy hopes to be different. It seeks to integrate into one highly efficient package multiple aerodynamic principles that McGinnis says aren't often used together, or to their full effect. The designer has reason to be confident his aircraft succeeds in the task while bending to fewer compromises across the flight envelope. McGinnis told AVweb Thursday that his project's progress, like most others, is funding-dependent and he has plans to take a new approach there, too, with an effort that could roll out next week.

McGinnis says he'll be launching a Kickstarter.com campaign (until then, McGinnis is directing people to a Facebook page for updates). Kickstarter is website that provides a forum to match entrepreneurs with funding. Essentially, it allows ideas to transform into funded projects with money from individual donors. For his next stage of funding, McGinnis has a clearly defined goal. McGinnis prefers not to spew specifications garnered from computer simulations or smaller-scale flight tests to promote the Synergy. But the results he expects to prove in full-scale flight tests are significant. According to McGinnis, "A lot of times when you're shooting for high performance or high efficiency, you wind up with an uncomfortable airplane that's not very practical. Everything about this design keeps the priority on things that we need to address before more of the general public shares our enthusiasm for general aviation. Having said that, we're light and fast, so the performance is definitely there."

Related Content:

TECNAM P2010 First Flight

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Italian aircraft manufacturer TECNAM flew a new offering, the 133-knot cruise, 180-hp, four-place, high-wing P2010 for the first time, Thursday. The aircraft is formed from carbon fiber and metal components and has a full-flying stabiliator. It makes use of a Lycoming IO-360-M1a, the "Lycoming Light" engine and an externally braced wing. The company, which has sold more than 3,000 aircraft (mostly in Europe), prides itself on its attention to pilot and passenger comforts and says it has logged 50 confirmed orders ahead of its attendance at the Aero 2012 trade show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, next week. It also offered a relatively detailed account of the flight trial.

According to the account, the aircraft accelerated to 50 KIAS in eight seconds while running about 325 feet down the runway. In flight, the aircraft produced a stabilized 100 KIAS at 20 inches of manifold pressure turning 2450 rpm. At 75 percent power in cruise at 6,500 feet, the aircraft's endurance is more than 540 nautical miles. TECNAM lists a takeoff distance of 1,260 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle and a landing distance of 1,027 feet when coming in over the same obstacle. Among details shared by the company test pilot was the more general comment that the aircraft appears safe and predictable in all investigated speed regimes. TECNAM is promoting the aircraft's longitudinal stability and says the aircraft's trim characteristics are a positive mark for consideration as an initial trainer. Customers will have the choice of either analog or digital instrument packages. The aircraft's pricing was near $275,000 when introduced in 2011. It is targeting certification under FAR Part 23 by November 2012 and the company has offered to refund deposits if that date falls beyond 2014.

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... And New Ideas back to top 

Qantas Jet To Fly On Cooking Oil

Recycled American cooking oil was chosen by Qantas to help power an Airbus A330 on a commercial flight from Sydney to Adelaide, Friday, and to raise awareness about alternative fuels as part of a biofuel trial flight. The fuel produced by Dutch firm SkyNRG uses the cooking oil and that product will be mixed with conventional jet fuel for the flight. SkyNRG fuel has already been tested by KLM, Chile's LAN and Finnair. Other airlines have successfully flown aircraft on biofuel, including Air New Zealand, which in 2008 flew a Boeing 747 on a 50:50 blend of jatropha plant-based biofuel and Jet A. Qantas says its flight this week is a step toward a larger goal.

Qantas spokesman Tom Woodward told the New Zealand Herald, "What we want to do is take the next step and see how we can produce [biofuel] in Australia." Woodward said the airline wants to use the flight to build momentum toward that goal and that the airline was "not wanting to do a flight for the sake of it." Fuel has been the largest operational cost for Qantas and totaled $3.6 billion last year. New environmental rules may add to that cost. The European Union on January 1 enacted a carbon plan meant to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The plan works like a cap-and-trade system that charges carriers a penalty when they exceed set emission standards. Qantas hopes that integration of a sustainable biofuel will reduce the airline's carbon footprint. According to the carrier, the "life cycle" footprint of SkyNRG is roughly 40 percent that of Jet A.

Silicon Valley Air Taxi Concept?

Surf Air hopes to make a $700,000-per-month gamble that people will want to pay hundreds of dollars each month for access to flights in one of two PC-12s flown between set airports on the west coast. The company plan includes service to Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles with memberships ranging from $790 to $1490 per month, beginning this summer. Surf Air memberships offer an "all-you-can-fly" format that operates on a Netflix-like system. Members paying $1490 can set up to six one-way reservations at a time. Once the first trip is fulfilled, the queue refreshes to include the next reservation in the member's queue. The company is founded by two brothers under the age of 33, and may depend on the acquisition of 500 members to cover monthly expenses.

The target traveler for Surf Air is a busy frequent business flyer prone to last-minute booking and interested in a first-class style of service, according to the company. "Our service can be substantially cheaper than first-class tickets, and we offer a better and less crowded experience," Surf Air says. It hopes to lease and operate two Pilatus turboprops to the tune of about $700,000 per month. And then it hopes to expand. The company says members will enjoy an ease of travel that includes driving right up to the aircraft a few minutes before departure and having a valet take their luggage and park their car. Members must sign on for a three-month period before going month-to-month. Each member is provided "unlimited complimentary guest passes" and will "have access to exclusive events and offers." Co-founders Wade and David Eyerly each have different work histories. Wade Eyerly served as an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. David Eyerly is a former manager of the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport for Frontier Airlines.

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Meanwhile, Across the Pond ... back to top 

Podcast: New European Pilot Rules

File Size 9.7 MB / Running Time 10:35

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Something that is a likely topic of discussion as AERO 2012 gets under way in Germany this week is the new EU pilot certificate rules as they apply to non-European pilots. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Jan Brill, the managing editor of Pilote and Flugzeug magazine, about the immediate and long-term effects of the controversial rule.

Click here to listen. (9.7 MB, 10:35)

Sonic Boom Over UK

At least one of two RAF Typhoon interceptors broke the speed of sound over England Thursday responding to what appears to have been an errant hijack code entered into a helicopter's transponder. When the code reached controllers, they attempted to contact the helicopter. When those efforts failed, a Quick Reaction Alert was issued and the Typhoons were launched. The jets caught up with the helicopter somewhere near Bath, but not before bathing a swath of British countryside, from Bath to Swindon, Coventry, Rugby and Oxford, in sonic boom. London will host an opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic games in July, and for some residents, the initially unexplained wall-shaking noise was more than disconcerting.

Mandy Leech, a mother in Coventry, told the Telegraph.co.UK, "if it was just somebody accidentally pressing a button in his helicopter I won't be very happy because it woke up my baby and scared the life out of me." Another resident said, "The noise was just deafening ... it was pretty terrifying to be fair." Police received multiple calls from a widespread area and were not immediately able to provide an answer. By Thursday night, a military spokesman confirmed the event was caused by a "small civilian aircraft" that was "transmitting inadvertently on an emergency frequency." The code that should have been used for the flight is 7000. The pilot apparently inadvertently entered 7500, initiating the hijack threat response.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Is the Flying Car Our Moonshot?

Should a practical flying car be the next moonshot? After all, cars that fly have held perennial fascination for both pilots and drivers for decades. Mary Grady examines the idea on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVmail: April 16, 2012

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Proper Phraseology Critical

The recent incident involving the missed emergency call in Denver is a classic example of why proper phraseology is so critical to aviation safety. The controller is expecting to hear an initial transmission that starts with "Denver Tower" or at least "Tower" (or "Center" or "Approach") followed by the company name and then the flight number. The first transmission from the radio operator in this case was a garbled "fifty-nine twelve." I listened to this segment of the recording five times and wasn't able to understand the "fifty-nine" part until the fifth try, and I was listening for it.

The subsequent exchange only reinforces that the pilot clearly (but only) said "fifty-nine twelve" the second time but the controller was listening for a transmission that began with a company name, not a number. As a result, he was scrambling all over the place looking for a call sign ending in 12.

Factor in the issue of the rogue radio operator in the area (these incidents are unusual but happened twice in two different locations during my tenure as a controller) and one might understand how this could further confuse the controllers.

Had the radio operator in the aircraft been in the habit of initiating transmissions by stating the facility name first and/or using the company name in the call sign we wouldn't be writing this. Maybe if you are talking to a company dispatcher you can get away with flight number only but abbreviated IDs to ATC will get you in trouble eventually.

Apparently United 5912 was inside the marker when all of this occurred, but I cannot find a complete recording so as to calculate or guesstimate the amount of time that transpired between the first emergency call and the last. The reason I bring that up is because a 7700 squawk would have alerted the whole world to the location of an aircraft with a problem, and the emergency equipment would probably have been rolling by the time UAL5912 touched down.

Bob Merrilees

As a retired controller (31 years), I take exception to the seeming castigation of the controller involved in the miscommunication/emergency involving UAL5912. Had the crew of UAL5912 used proper phraseology and communicated their problem to ATC, there might not have been any misunderstanding.

Their call sign was UAL5912, not "5912." As an experienced controller, I can tell you that there is great importance in using proper phraseology 100 percent of the time in order to remove gray areas and confusion. I blame the crew for introducing the confusion.

Mark Sickle

I just listened to the audio between the aircraft and controller and think there is blame on both sides for the communication failure. The pilot was not speaking in a controlled manner and was very difficult to understand. The controller failed to timely inquire on the air about who was calling and to repeat the message. There are lessons to be learned on both sides.

Jordan Ross

Reno Lessons

Regarding the "Question of the Week" on the Reno Air Races: I was in the grandstand that day, less than 100 feet from the point of impact.

The NTSB states that Galloping Ghost was doing 530 mph at the start of the accident sequence. At those speeds, there's simply no way to guarantee spectator safety in the event of a runaway aircraft. So the focus has to be on accident prevention, which seems to be the direction that the NTSB is taking.

I'm pleased that, despite the awful nature of this accident, the powers that be are pursuing a measured and thoughtful response.

D. J. Molny

I have been attending the Air Races since their inception. It was always on my mind that the last turn on the course was too close to the pits and the stands. Moving the last pylon to a position that will allow the Unlimiteds to come by the stands in straight and level versus the constant bank that they have been in while passing the start/finish pylon, would go a long way to preventing a repeat.

Air shows do not permit the momentum of the aircraft to be pointed at the spectators. Applying this protocol to the air races would be a big step towards increasing the safety factors involved for the spectators.

Blaine Banks

A huge gain in spectator safety would be to place the crowd on the inside of the turns. Had that been done no one would have died except the pilot.

Ken McBride

You should ask a follow-up question: If respondents answered in favor of or against the air races, whether they have ever attended, attended last year, or will attend in the future. I was 80 feet away from where Jimmy hit. I am going back. I don't need the government to protect me from enjoying life.

Ken Meiss

Is it possible to make any activity so safe that nobody ever is killed? We as a society need to let go of the fallacy that we can be guaranteed not to be killed in anything we do. We as a society also need to take a step back and consider that 12 people killed in 50 years of racing is [a relatively small number]. Sometimes bad things happen despite all the precautions taken.

Sure, the odds of fatalities in the Reno crash would have been lowered had the course been 1,000 feet away, but the possibility still would have existed. So maybe the course should be 10 miles away from the spectator area. That would lower the odds further.

Steve Egolf

I love the Reno air races. My dream would be more access and less safety. Spectators should be able to use their own judgment about what is safe. Too many rules will never protect everyone from harm, and most people realize that "safety" is more for the benefit of the insurance company, not the spectators.

Lee Ulrich

Flying in Europe

As a U.S. citizen and private pilot who recently repatriated from Europe to California, I feel compelled to comment on the new foreign pilot certification rules going into place in Europe.

While living for many years in Belgium and previously in France, I enjoyed the privilege of general aviation flying using my FAA PPL. Paperwork was simple, and no testing was required. Nevertheless, I worked hard to learn local charting, communications, and flight filing procedures. The GA flying community welcomed me with open arms and helped me along. As a busy professional and father, I know I would never have taken the time or expense to pursue what will now be required of foreign residents such as myself.

Pilot und Flugzeug editor Jan Brill's editorial is aggressive but correct. (I am fluent in German and can confirm it is not just the translation that is blunt.)

We should not let this pass easily. The world is now flat. Creating regional barriers rather than universal regulations is the wrong direction and astounding in this day and age. Imagine if we let EASA write the rules for the internet.

George Stromeyer

As a German pilot and CFI, I've had to cope with the new regs for the last couple of weeks.

On March 26, Germany postponed the EASA/EU-FCL implementation to April 8, 2013. Nevertheless the problem remains when flying with U.S. and Canadian licenses in different European countries respectively when using these licenses in 2013.

As the pilot community has absolutely no idea how many pilot colleagues are discriminated against by the new reg, a cross-Atlantic "world pilot" campaign may be needed.

Many German pilots won't understand this ridiculous regulatory framework and would eagerly support a united pilot network.

Kind regards from Germany,

S. Joseph

AVweb Replies:

Be sure to check out our podcast with Jan Brill today.

Scott Simmons

Way of the Future

I have a quick comment on the PlaneFinder online match-making article:

I believe that this kind of thing is critical to the future of general aviation — not just the top end, either. Aviation is obviously exciting, fun, and useful, but, more than anything else, it is a habit that can develop after some positive initial experiences.

If that makes it sound like a drug, fine — except not nearly enough people are getting hooked. As with boats in marinas, most aircraft sit around almost all of the time, yet plenty of people look at boats and aircraft and wish they were off doing that.

It seems obvious to me that we need to use our aging fleets and dwindling numbers of airfields to create the demand for new aircraft and the retention of infrastructure. A series of match-making services seems to me to be the critical factor.

For example: If you've got a four-hour drive to a meeting next month but you know there is a fair chance you can tee up an inexpensive, exciting one-hour plane ride both ways via some web site, that's how habits change.

John Hogan

Help Everywhere

Regarding the "FBO of the Week": I'm impressed. Here is a guy in a world of hurt needing help and gets it from everybody he is in contact with. Mr. Weimer drives 80 miles to get his oil filter, and the CFIs always know where the donuts are. It warms the heart.

George Schneider

Wrong Angel

Please tell us you really didn't mean that the F8F Bearcat was the first airplane flown by the Blue Angels in the story about Howard Pardue's accident.

It was the F6F-5 Hellcat.

We will certainly miss Pardue and his contributions to the warbird community. He was always such a gentleman to me and my kids at the Reno Air Races, and his Bearcat was one of my son's favorite birds.

Wally Warren

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Gama Aviation and Blue Sky Flight School (Igor I. Sikorsky Airport, Stratford, CT)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

Our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon is a joint award to the civic-minded folks at Gama Aviation and Blue Sky Flight School on the campus of Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR) in Stratford, Connecticut. AVweb reader Bud Turner recently enlisted Gama and Blue Sky on behalf of some future pilots:

I'm an Aviation Merit Badge Counselor for the Boy Scouts of America. When e-mails went out from the local EAA Young Eagles chapter looking for volunteers, Tom Miller, himself an Eagle Scout, immediately offered up Gama's hangar and provided pizza for the boys for lunch. In addition, Mike Becker from Blue Sky Flight School donated a Grumman Tiger for three hours, and one of his CFIs signed up to take the boys up for a flight up and down the Connecticut coast line. Bravo Zulu to both for the outstanding support of the BSA and Young Eagle programs!

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

Traditional Tactics Need a Fresh Approach
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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Video: Cessna 152 vs. LSAs -- Flying School Shootout

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Which is better for training — a new-age LSA or an old-school Cessna 152? For Texas flight school U.S. Aviation Group, the Cessna wins hands down on economics. It's also easier to fly and solo, but not necessarily more fun.

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

ATC questioned a confused student pilot:

"What are your intentions?"

Student Pilot:
"After this cross-country flight, take my check ride and get my private license."

Ray Dash
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Scott Simmons

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Jeff Van West

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb home page readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss, via e-mail or via telephone [(480) 525-7481].

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